Special Reports

Last updated: 6 march, 2012 - 15:27 GMT

Great Expectations: The word on the street

Hackney Wick cyclist

A cyclist heads through Hackney Wick, an area close to the Olympic site

We started the podcast in 2008, and since then we've heard all kinds of opinions about the Olympics.

Seeing the pictures I wonder whether it might be like an adult Disneyland.

Francesca Panetta

In one of our first podcasts, Hackney politician Dianne Abbott expressed her concern that not enough local residents were getting jobs in the construction of the site.

Just 125 people out of 6,277 people working on the Olympic park construction site live in Hackney - that's a tiny 2%.

London author Iain Sinclair has been one of the most vocal dissenters against the Olympics right from the start.

He told us how his beloved landscape, the lower Lea Valley, will be reinvented with a different "narrative" - one that's dictated from above.

He fears what we'll be left with will be little more than a large shopping centre.

Sunny outlook

But a sunny afternoon interviewing people in London Fields - a local park - gave a different response.

Swimmers emerging from the lido thought the new Zaha Hadid-designed swimming pool would be great for them, while the cyclists I stopped couldn't wait for the Velodrome.

Fathers watching their sons play football in the park liked the idea of international facilities being available to their children.

Then came my first real experience of the site.

John Hopkins from the Olympic Delivery Authority gave me a two-hour tour of the site in a 4x4.

Girl with her union jack face paint

The Olympic bid team say the Games will be a proud moment for the UK

He described how the Olympics would provide a new permanent 100-acre park which would rival London's famous Kew Gardens.

I thought it sounded great, although seeing the pictures I wondered whether it might be a little like an adult Disneyland.

During my digging into Olympics stories, the people who intrigued me most were those who lived in Hackney Wick, a strange island-like part of the borough bordered by a main road and an old canal.

They sit right up against the Olympic site and will bear the brunt of the construction work and potentially reap the benefits of the games.

Residents and senior citizens moaned to me about the noise and the dust.

They said they had to wash their windows every day.

But they were hopeful: maybe their local community would get jobs from the Olympics.

And of course, it might increase the value of their houses.

But when I asked residents what they thought these jobs really would be and who would be getting them, they didn't know.

A lot of confusion

Who would be moving in to the houses? Well, not them - they already were happy where they were.

When I asked the London Fields joggers whether they would really travel to nearby Stratford for a swim they weren't too sure.

Francesca Panetta has been presenting and producing the award-winning Hackney Podcast since 2008. The programmes contain a mix of "politics, environmental issues and scenes from local life alongside cutting-edge art, literature and music".

So nearly two years down the line with the Hackney Podcast, and about two years until the Olympic Games themselves what do I think?

Primarily that there is still a lot of confusion and ambiguity for locals. Trying to pin down exactly what they will gain from the games, what legacy there will be, is hard.

It's an expensive business, the Olympics, and our borough is still unsure as to whether it will be worth the price.


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